5 Ways Technology Makes Small Businesses Big
BY: KATIE PARSONS ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2013
With the constraints of the world market shrinking, small businesses have more advantages than ever when it comes to competing on a global scale. The technology pitting small companies against big businesses has been evolving for a decade or more, but major strides should be expected. While the core success of a small business lies in the quality of services and products, the technology of visibility and customer growth certainly aids foundationally-sound institutions.
Here is a look at a few ways small businesses are standing up to business Goliaths and coming out ahead:
Inexpensive (or free) advertising. Thanks to Google Ads and similar online services, the price of advertising has gone down in all mediums. This is not really a new trend, but one that deserves revisiting when discussing the overall picture of small business advantages. Though this trend originally hurt industries like newspapers, it seems that equilibrium is close to realization. The business categories originally hurt by rock-bottom digital advertising rates have now adapted and can still make a profit. Small businesses benefit the most from a level playing field when it comes to advertising because even without a fat marketing budget, customers can be reached with products and services.
Global reach. On a very basic level, a self-proclaimed jewelry designer that used to peddle goods at local craft shows or to friends and family members can now reach anyone, anywhere in the world through the power of technology. Again, the internet and its many artisan-friendly sites are nothing new but they have transformed the way small business owners start, maintain and promote their companies. Freelance writers, plumbers, marketing consultants and major brick-and-mortar retailers have the opportunity for worldwide exposure 24 hours, seven days of the week. While small businesses would have needed to build a mainly local client base even 10 years ago, most industries have no geographic limitations anymore. However, this unlimited global business still requires good communication and customer service just like your local client base.
Digital word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth still reigns as a way to gain new customers. So, how do small businesses take advantage of this? Most small businesses can simply not afford celebrity endorsements, even on the local level. The best these company owners can wish for is positive word-of-mouth from average consumers that use their products or services and feel prompted to attach a verbal seal of approval. The problem in the past was that the reach of such endorsements were limited; even customers with high levels of satisfaction had to be put in the perfect situation to feel prompted to reveal that happiness with a company, product or service in order for a word-of-mouth referral to take place. All of those variables have essentially been removed with the advent of online reviews. Sure, these sites are a double-edged sword because less-than-favorable responses are also allowed. Still, most prospective customers that peruse review sites know how to sift through the rightful anger and disgruntled entitlement of online reviews. Small businesses that consistently provide quality products and services, along with offering high levels of customer service, should embrace online reviews and find ways to encourage happy clients to contribute to them. Taking endorsements from driveways and office water coolers and placing them prominently online is a huge advantage to small businesses that rely on word-of-mouth promotion.
Ease in accepting payments. First, there were online payment sites like Paypal that made it easy for small businesses to accept electronic payments for goods and services. Now companies like Square are part of the picture, giving small business owners the opportunity to accept payment on the spot with only a smartphone. Expect to see a lot more technologies like Square in the coming years that not only take electronic payment instantly, but also allow business owners to issue gift cards, keep up with loyalty points and track favorite purchases. These electronic systems of customer interaction give small business owners the opportunity to put customer metrics in place at a low cost. They also make businesses more attractive with more convenient payment options.
Fast delivery. Major online retailers like Amazon should fear up-and-coming technologies like Get It Now – an app that guarantees customers delivery of the items they want in less than an hour. These apps rely on local, small businesses for the products that searchers want rather than looking outside the zip code. For a low delivery fee, these apps connect customers to businesses that provide what they need, no waiting required. The popularity of this type of local business and customer matching is growing dramatically, making it easier for small businesses to sell the same items as large corporations without an Amazon or other big-box affiliation.
Owning a small business no longer means a disadvantage when it comes to visibility, customer reach and even ease of payment options. Technology has made it easier than ever for small businesses to market effectively and at a low cost. As technology developers continue to realize the vast market of small business customers, expect the scales of marketplace competition to continue to lean towards smaller size companies. Smart small business owners will take advantage of the established and emerging technologies that help their bottom line.
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